Colorado is known for many things -- big mountains, good snow, 300 days of sunshine -- but perhaps its most quaffable quirk is its love of beer. Even though there aren't quite enough breweries in Colorado to try a new brew each sunny day, there are more than 160 breweries in the Centennial State, so we're getting there.
Summer means seasonal in the brewery world and many of Colorado's best and brightest are rolling out their summer offerings. Narrowing down which summer beer to select can be a challenge, but never fear. We've done the heavy lifting (12 oz curls) and selected the top five summer seasonal beers from Colorado. These beers are only available for a limited time, so make sure you drink 'em while it's hot.
Belgian Style Pale Ale (Upslope Brewing Company, Boulder)
New in April, 2012 (though Upslope has been brewing it since 2009), Upslope's Belgian Pale Ale has a fruity aroma, a refreshingly light body and a deceptive kick with 7.5 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), all without losing the spicy notes -- like coriander -- that embody a Belgian-inspired ale. Perfect for sippin' in the sunshine, the Belgian Style Pale Ale is packaged in a can for your conveyance convenience.
Taking a cue from the Belgians, there's really no wrong time to crack open a Belgian Style Pale Ale, says Katie Hill, marketing manager at Upslope. "Whether you're hanging with friends poolside, cooling down after mowing the lawn or enjoying a post-ride refreshment, this summertime ale is sure to hit the spot."
Heyday (Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver)
A brand-new seasonal from Great Divide, Heyday is a Belgian-Style White Ale (think along the lines of Blue Moon or Avery's White Rascal) that Mark Slattery, the Denver Beer Guy, describes as "quite possibly one of the best summer seasonals in the country. This Belgian-style white ale is both refreshing and flavorful, with just the right amount of hop kick and enough flavor to know that you're drinking a quality craft beer."
Though Great Divide made its name in the biz with high alcohol beer, Heyday is "light, spritzy and sessionable," with only 5.2% ABV, says Anna Nadasdy, Director of Sales and Marketing at Great Divide. Try it with a splash of orange juice for a Brewmosa at lunch or during an afternoon of lawn games: "I've found having a bottle of it in hand really improves my bocce technique," explains Anna.
St. Lupulin (Odell Brewing Co, Fort Collins)
Odell introduced St. Lupulin in summer of 2010 and the dry hopped, extra pale ale has been delighting beer aficionados ever since. With a crisp lemongrass aroma, Eli Kolodny, Quality Control Manager at Odell Brewing Co, recommends keeping the fridge stocked with St. Lupulin for drinking "right after dinner. When the sun is going down, it's time to hit up the porch."
While St. Lupulin will remain Odells signature summer beer (like the Highlander,there can be only one), check out a new session beer called Loose Leaf in the Montage Variety Pack, which is only available in the summer.
Good Juju (Left Hand Brewing Co, Longmont)
Brewed to celebrate the vernal equinox (translation: the first day of spring), Good Juju was first released in its current incarnation as a spring/summer seasonal in spring 2010, though its organic ginger goodness was conceived of in 1994. A light and refreshing ale, Good Juju has a spicy aroma and a unique flavor, not unlike the ginger beer we swigged as kids.
Due to its lower alcohol content (at only 4.5% ABV, it's one of the lightest seasonals available), Left Hand Marketing and PR Coordinator Emily Armstrong says that you can enjoy Good Juju with any activity under the sun. "Since it's so light and refreshing, it really fits well with hot days in a way that not all beers can."
Mark gives us an even better excuse: "Good Juju might be this summer's 'healthiest beer' as the ginger-packed spice ale is sure to have some homeopathic qualities." Though he's not a doctor, I think he might be on to something.
Mexican Logger (Ska Brewing Co, Durango)
Though this Mexican style lager was first brewed in 2000, Ska Brewery only started canning it in 2011, allowing the namesake beer of the Mexican Logger Superhero Carlos Javier--from Ska's original comic book story and business plan--to be enjoyed anywhere a tab can be popped. At 5% ABV, Mexican Logger is light bodied and flavorful, with a crisp finish and a playful nip of Saaz hops.
"You ask some beers if they want to go rafting, or hiking, and they're like, 'Oh, I don't know if my bottle can do that,' or, 'It's too hot out for me,' or they come up with some other excuse," said Matt Vincent, Ska's VP of Operations and summer adventure connoisseur. "Mexican Logger is like, 'I'm already packed--get in.' No drama--just a tasty beer that loves summer and is ready to go."
For those looking for what could almost be a seasonal anomaly, Ska also brews seasonal stouts: one for each changing season. Keep an eye out for the Orange Cream Stout, brewed with orange blossom honey and aged on sweet orange peels; its debuting on June 21 at tasteful taps around the country.
These beers were selected not only for their summer-worthy tastes and characteristics, but also because they're widely available. For even more great summer seasonals, visit one of the many taprooms and tasting rooms in Colorado for can't-get-it-anywhere-else goodness.
By Katie Coakley, Katie on the Map